World-Changers Who Survived Childhood Diseases 

Katherine Ripley
Updated November 5, 2019 84.7k views 12 items

Before the advancements of modern medicine, death from childhood infections was quite common, and is still common in many developing countries today. This list is full of famous people who survived potentially fatal childhood diseases. After beating the odds when they were young, they went on to change the world.

If these people had not survived their brushes with death, the world might not be the same place it is today. Chew on that while you read their stories.
George Washington is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list World-Changers Who Survived Childhood Diseases
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Historians think George Washington was plagued by several diseases throughout his life. First, when he was 15, he got diptheria, a common childhood infection which was often fatal. Then, when he was 17, he got malaria, which doesn't often happen in the United States now, but was very common back then. As if that wasn't enough, he got smallpox when he was 19. That experience inspired him to have all the soldiers in the Colonial Army vaccinated for smallpox. 

Washington continued to suffer from other diseases throughout his life, until he finally died from complications from the flu.

Age: Dec. at 67 (1732-1799)

Birthplace: Virginia, United States of America

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Desmond Tutu is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list World-Changers Who Survived Childhood Diseases
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Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu is widely known for his outspoken opposition to apartheid in South Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. When he was 12 years old, he nearly died of tuberculosis. This experience made him want to become a doctor, but his family could not afford medical school tuition. He instead became a priest and deacon, and later a bishop, and used his role in the church to advance the movement for racial equality.

Age: 87

Birthplace: Klerksdorp, South Africa

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Thomas Edison is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list World-Changers Who Survived Childhood Diseases
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Thomas Edison contracted scarlet fever when he was 14 years old. The infection caused him to go completely deaf in one ear and mostly deaf in the other. Edison claimed he lost his hearing because a train conductor once picked him up by his ears to prevent him from falling off a train, but experts doubt this was actually the cause.

Age: Dec. at 84 (1847-1931)

Birthplace: Milan, Ohio, United States of America

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Joseph Stalin is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list World-Changers Who Survived Childhood Diseases
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Joseph Stalin contracted smallpox when he was seven years old. The disease left him with severe facial scars, and he had as many photos of himself as possible retouched to reduce the appearance of the scarring.

Age: Dec. at 75 (1878-1953)

Birthplace: Gori, Georgia

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